OLYMPIA (WA) – The Washington state House Technology and Economic Development (TED) Committee has reached its first legislative deadline with an impressive and innovative list of bills moving toward a possible floor vote.
In one of the most productive sessions in recent history, TED passed an array of legislation concerning energy, broadband, and technology – particularly for rural areas in need of more economic development opportunities, according to committee Chair Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mt. Vernon).
“Often our most important bills get little attention because they are complicated,” Morris said. “While people might not see how our legislation impacts them directly, they definitely notice how our bills change the services and technology they rely on.”
After five years of work and leadership the TED Committee moved out bipartisan bills for “distributed energy resource” (DER) planning (HB 1233); and a bill allowing new business models or “alternative forms of regulation” (AFOR) for utilities (HB 2839). Morris said this is particularly important as the current business model of volumetric kilowatt-hours is starting to fail.
In addition to the DER and AFOR bills, the TED Committee passed legislation regarding a new transparent net metering pathway; community solar; and vehicle electrification – all sponsored by Morris. Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) also had multiple bills related to energy efficiency programs, including one related to “on-bill repayment” (HB 2410), which increases opportunities for utility customers to purchase higher-priced energy efficient products for their homes.
In 2005, Washington was the first state to require that all utilities purchasing new resources conduct “integrated resource planning” (IRP). Several national laboratory studies have shown life cycle risk IRP planning to be far more effective than renewable portfolio standards (RPS) at moving energy efficiency and renewable energy options into utilities’ resource portfolios, according to Morris.
“IRP is a complex issue, and while it is more effective than renewable standards criteria, people better understand RPS and so still focus on this approach,” Morris said.
On the technology front, the TED Committee moved a number of bills that gained national attention.
Morris’s “Right to Repair” bill (HB 2279) allows local repair shops to fix smart phones and tablets once an item is out of warranty.
“I had a local phone repair shop owner walk me through everything technology providers were doing to make it impossible to get your phone fixed if your screen cracks or battery wears out. It was eye opening,” said Morris. The bill passed out of committee with a strong bipartisan vote.
Three bills, two on net neutrality (HB 2200 and HB 2284) and one on net privacy (HB 2282) in response to the Federal government rolling back consumer protection, were all passed with large bipartisan votes.
Rural broadband and advanced wireless communications also garnered Republican and Democratic support in committee. HB 2312, sponsored by Rep. Richard DeBolt, would spend $300 million to provide better high-speed broadband across the state. Morris’s (HB 2592) establishes criteria to make local governments ready for the $56 billion pledged by wireless providers by 2020 to implement 5G wireless communication.
“Our committee doesn’t often get a lot of attention, but the issues we work on are felt by our residents every day,” Morris said.